Power theft crackdown

2010-02-16 00:00

A CONTRACTOR was arrested when he was caught red-handed while reconnecting the electricity at a building where the supply had been cut off because it was being stolen from the municipal grid.

Msunduzi municipal officials were astounded at the audacity of those involved as the reconnection was carried out on the same day as the illegal connection was discovered and shut down.

The arrested contractor cannot be named because he has not yet appeared in court. The Witness understands that an investigation is under way into the contractor’s involvement in the reconnection and whether he acted in concert with others such as the owner and municipal employees.

In addition, criminal investigators from outside the city have been brought in to conduct the investigation into electricity theft uncovered since last Thursday on several large properties in the city.

The task team established to crack down on municipal debt defaulters is not giving out much information on the investigation at this stage.

Meanwhile, seven members of the task team — all senior municipal employees — were to appear in court yesterday after being charged by an employee of city lawyer and property owner Surendra Singh.

The employee laid a charge of common assault and crimen injuria. She alleged the task team members shoved her and hurled racial abuse at her when she would not allow them into the meter rooms at one of the buildings owned by Singh.

Task team members were left sitting around at the magistrate’s court for more than two hours when the case docket could not be found.

According to Lance Stratford, acting process manager for income, they were charged and told to appear in B court yesterday. They arrived there at 8.30 am and were told to return at 11 am. On their return they had to wait while a court official spent more than an hour trying unsuccessfully to locate the case docket.

The official also discovered that their case number was the same as the case number against two people who were present in court and were charged with theft in another matter. In the end the court official told them to go as there appeared to be no case against them.

The task team is continuing the disconnection drive and will be inspecting all businesses in town for illegal connections.

The process manager for electricity, Maxwell Mthembu, one of the seven charged by Singh’s employee, said that if they find evidence of theft they will remove all meters and connections. He said the municipality will levy penalities as well as retrospective charges for the electricity that was consumed.

Stratford said that in the week ahead the team will be disconnecting 600 meters a day for council debt defaulters. These will be “hard” disconnections, which means the entire meter will be removed as well as the cable that feeds electricity to the property.

The disconnection crackdown is to allow the cash-strapped Msunduzi Municipality to recover more than R585 million owed by government, households and businesses in the city.





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